Archive for September, 2012

Among stupid shit about which I will proceed to get bitter and mean about precisely because Rebecca Solnit’s upset that non-voters like me might get bitter and mean, I present Rebecca Solnit’s article, Leftsplaining. It’s too bad. I liked her essay about Mansplaining a great deal, though I might have to re-read the thing and see if it’s built upon this many anecdotes and loose comparisons.

Libsplaining (n.)–1. That explanation which drips of condescension whereby a liberal carefully explains to you what an amoral jagoff you are for not believing what he or she believes or for not doing what he or she does. 2. An automatic response triggered by criticism of the liberal candidate for high office.

So this is one of those articles you can expect around presidential election time, which asks (and libsplains!) why supposed leftists* get mad and bitter and pure (!) at guys like Barack Obama or any politician. The reason is because we’re mad and bitter and pure, apparently. We think drone strikes make him a lousy person to support, even if he does come out for gay marriage just in time for election season. What a bunch of assholes! Mitt Romney would continue the drone strikes and would pander to conservative Christians rather than homosexuals. Don’t I feel like a useless dick now? Don’t I care about my gay friends? Or would I rather care about the “cultivation of [my] own moral superiority”?

Listen, Rebecca, don’t write an essay in which you explain your moral superiority by comparing the act of voting to marching with Dr. King or in which your political opinion is mocked to activists’ parades and suggest–at the same fucking time–that other people are cultivating their moral superiority. Don’t say that a person who argues against voting is actually “suppressing the vote.” You think you’re freaking moral by voting for Barack Obama? As moral as Dr. King or Gandhi or even the marchers who followed them? You are as moral as them when you perform similar actions: organizing, marching, taking your life in your own hands to achieve human dignity. Voting is not the equivalent of any of that. Voting is consent to what is. That’s all it is ever taken as: approval of the candidate and the system which made that candidate possible. If you want that, go for it. And I do understand why minorities pushed and still push for the right to vote. For large numbers of desperate people, they want a power. Any power will do, and if that power is to approve, they’ll take it. I don’t get mad at them.

I do get mad at people who make idiotic equivalencies, as Solnit does between her voting and activist groups doing what they can to survive and get ahead. When Solnit is an activist, good for her, if that’s what she wants to do. When Solnit’s arguing all this just to tell me to shut up till November and be nice so she can vote for Obama without hearing about Obama’s dickness, she can eat it.

“Pure,” by the way, is a nice mocking word. Libsplainers think they’re acknowledging shades of grey in themselves and the world of moral behavior which their adversaries cannot or will not. Frankly, they seem to be cultivating their  moral superiority. I’m not sure any adult thinks of himself as “pure.” I surely don’t think I’m “pure” for refusing to vote. I think I’m reserving time for activities which I believe will be more productive and which may or may not be pure.

That “suppressing the vote” comment kills me. The current liberal shtick involves vote suppression. Now it’s not just Republicans with voter ID laws**. Apparently, I, by saying that I don’t want anything to do with Obama, am suppressing someone’s vote. Imagine: the power of my arguments combined with the arguments of supposed leftists everywhere is “suppressing the vote.” Yet, the Wife’s going to vote for Obama. Ask her if I’m suppressing her, much less anybody else. Is that too anecdotal a piece of evidence? Is it more or less anecdotal than the mean old Berkeley professor who didn’t care much for Solnit’s praise of a politician? If my speech or even the collected speech of all jaded supposed leftists everywhere against Obama suppresses the vote, we’ve set a low freaking bar. Maybe liberals have reached the end of this suppression line.

Liberals aren’t suppressed, okay? Not by anyone on “the Left.” “The Left” is not “punish[ing] those who do choose to participate” nor is “The Left” “punishing them for often minor differences.” “The Left” has about as much power to punish in this country as anyone with a mouth. Actually, less power than some mouths. The next time an anarchist has as much open column space as Rebecca Solnit will be the first. Really, “The Left” has as much power as the crumpled receipt from the grocery on my desk. If you can’t get people like me to vote, it’s not because I’m bitter or mean or pure. It’s because I’ve got more important things to do and cooler people to approve.

*Can this left-right thing ever be killed? Must I be a leftist because I hate drone strikes and often favor poor people to rich people? Must I be a leftist because I hate war?

**Which are stupid.


Some mornings, like the one after you slice Herv’s femoral artery, you won’t feel jazzed about yourself. If you need detachment, cast this spell. Look into the McDonald’s window and practice saying “Carl” to your reflection. At the shelter, introduce yourself by that name. The next day, say you’re Steve. On the road, later, abbreviate the alias to C or S. While picking oranges in the Everglades, go by J. Run through the alphabet, one letter per day. Alone, practice asking your reflection, “Who are you?” Later, just ask, “Who?” Namelessness carries a particular danger. It’s one hop, really, from Namelessness to schizo nuts. To prevent this, every night whisper your real name to Jasmine. She’ll guard the secret.

from “Spell Compendium”

in Vs. Death Noises.

Thanks to Timber for publishing “The Archived Steve” here.

If you enjoyed it, you’d probably enjoy my book, which you can buy here.

Whatcha Reading, Pactor?

Posted: September 14, 2012 in greater writers than me

Like you, I am a sucker for stories of the postapocalypse. That’s because, like you, I’m the sort of masochist who can’t wait for everybody to suffer for their sins on Earth. Also like you, I’m the sort of dreamer who wants to see how we’re going to rebuild better than before.

If you are, like me, like you, you will dig the way Matt Bell’s Cataclysm Baby fulfills your expectations while bending conventions of the genre.

The skinny: twenty-six fathers in twenty-six stories tell tales about more than an alphabet’s worth of kids. These kids are messed up. They are blobs of flesh or poofs of air, mass impregnators of wives, beasts of burden, and flippered sweeties. That list is hardly exhaustive. The dads are messed up, too, but the nature of their messed-upness is singular. The difference is purely a matter of degree. These fathers fail in the way all fathers fail, only the consequences of that failure are far worse when the world’s gone to hell.

So, for instance, men often cheat on their spouses. In American literature, this is like the first thing we learn in any work about domestic families. Updike and a million others have pumped and will continue to push the adultery both because it happens and because it sells. But  in “Justina, Justine, Justise,” that adultery leads to awful results. Did I say “leads?” No, it has already led: Dad begins with a cut-off hand. His daughters have passed sentence upon him. Can Dad quit his affair? Of course not. Even in the future, at least some of these men think they remain in Updikia. By the end of the story, he hasn’t changed. His daughters, blind administrators of justice, have transformed into straight furies. Bye, Dad.

That story, like many others is a matter of doom getting doomier, just the way I like it.

In “Virgil, Virotte, Vitalis,” we see the best of fathers struggling to get his daughter on a boat to the next Rome. She must be disguised as a boy, lest she be taken and, well, you can imagine what might happen to one of the last young women amongst a horde of desperate men. The boat leaves and the father must at least get her into the water, give her a chance. He recalls any hero you’ve ever hoped you might be, sacrificing himself for her. Of course, it’s hard to know if she makes it to the boat. She’s so young, and it’s a freaking ocean, but he tells himself, as he must, that “she swims on unmolested, that without us men, to hold her back she kicks by the buoys that mark the end of this world’s dominion.”

“Zachary, Zahir, Zedekiah” is like a postscript. We wait for the rise of some particular hero to redeem us, some Chuck Norriss type to avenge that good father and teach us how to be men again, that sort of thing, but instead it’s a wide zoom out. Repetitions of “and then” suggest the end of man’s role in cause/effect relationships. One thing happens after another. Time passes. Eventually, beautifully, an age of seeds begins, apparently after many hundreds or thousands of years. When the new sun rises we get the sense that the world’s been reset but also moved forward, without us.

In some Vonnegut novel, men are compared to viruses making the earth sick. To heal itself, the planet must remove us. I get a similar vibe at the end. Though a few of us are cool and even good, without civilization, the vast majority of us would sink into depravity. I can’t say I like the Hobbesian implication, though it is a staple of these sorts of books. Ah, who reads for messages? This book is well-crafted. It takes me, maybe you, to someplace cool. That’s always enough.

MC 1.0 lacks the funk

A year later, the Year of the Marble Rye, the block was so hot that glass caught fire, and we decided to prove our worth. We stitched together paint, copper wire, needles, corpse pieces of that well-dressed android, recordings of mayoral debates, aerosol spray heads, pennies, Velveeta, and broke down Gameboys into MC 1.0. Its sad heart was the president’s grill on a plank. We powered it with need. But we were superstitious. When it couldn’t rhyme, we blasted it with sticks.

While large numbers of friends discuss their plans to change the world by casting a ballot, the Wife and I have modestly begun to learn a new skill. We make pasta from scratch.

A pasta machine requires two people for use: one will turn the handle and feed the dough, while the other will catch the cut noodles. In our case, this doesn’t develop teamwork and intimacy* so much as it resets them in a new, fun context. Can I say that in English? Yes. We’re playing with an adult Play-Doh Playhouse. It’s fun and, eventually, delicious.

I’m wary of telling people what they should do with their time. The answer is often the doctor’s code: Do no harm. But I do think people should consider what is productive of their time, the ways in which they can and cannot change the world. There is our world, Earth, and there is our world, which includes friends, families, lovers, neighbors, anyone within our reach. How much more effectively can you spend your time than with them than on the internet, looking for the latest political outrage against decency and telling everyone to vote lest be burn in the sad gas of a stranger’s stupidity?

George Carlin was only half-right. Masturbation probably is more productive (and more pleasurable) than any vote. But even better is to spend that time and all the time leading up to it making good food.

*We’ve got those in spades.

Then #10 arrived. She’d burned him, but that hadn’t taught him any lessons. Other girls either loved or pitied #10, who dreamed of saving Classic. He sent her long, earnest texts about loneliness and commitment that must have left his thumbs sore. He supposed the texts, plus a few cut-and-pasted Shakespearean sonnets would win her heart. He didn’t want to kiss her that night though. He came behind her dude of the moment and applied a Vulcan death grip. Dude’s partners rushed over. #10’s buddies felt obliged to fight.

from “How is a Moon”

from Vs. Death Noises